NORTH WEBSTER — If last year was any indication, muskie fishing at Lake Webster should be even better this year.
After several years of decline, the muskie population in the 774-acre lake in Kosciusko County is on the rebound. The state’s most popular muskie fishery is showing signs of improving conditions.
Jed Pearson, a DNR fisheries biologist who has monitored the lake’s muskie stocking program since the early 1980s, says the first sign is young fish.
“We’re seeing a resurgence of young muskies in our spring trap catches,” Pearson said. “Last spring, we caught 126 muskies during our egg-taking operation. Of those, 79 were young fish less than 34 inches long. We caught 50 young ones in 2017.”
In contrast, DNR caught only 15 young muskies per year from 2012 through 2016.
“We upped the size of muskie fingerlings stocked in the lake,” Pearson said. “More plant coverage has increased habitat for them.”
Trap catches also indicate an increase in the population.
“Although our estimates are rough, we think muskie numbers went from a peak of nearly 5,000 in 2005 to fewer than 500 in 2014,” Pearson said. “Since then, the number has risen to around 1,000. We’d like to see that number eventually double.”
The decline also reduced the number of larger, older fish that may have previously cannibalized newly stocked muskies.
Muskie catches by tournament anglers have also increased, as have catches reported by muskie guides. Both groups report seeing more young fish. Twice as many muskies were caught by guided anglers last year compared to 2011. Of all the guided Indiana muskie fishing trips last year, more than half were taken at Lake Webster.
“All of this is good news for muskie anglers,” Pearson said.
To learn more about muskie fishing opportunities, visit wildlife.IN.gov/9698.htm.